Knowledge Center


Article -> Exposing the Management Mirage

Date Added: June 2007

On a constant quest to uncover the secrets to high performance, leaders will consider nearly every pattern related to cause and effect. Similar to a better-than-average round at the golf course, some professionals go to great lengths to replicate all the variables which may or may not have contributed to their success. The truth is, while most of their counterparts follow protocol set by the latest success story, true leaders are independent, clear thinkers – not at all misled by deceptions of achievement.

Halo Effect. Although some high-performing organizations use less-than-sound tactics in strategy, leadership development or marketing; they are often imitated because of their haphazard success. What’s more, a decline in performance is also erroneously linked to the worsening of these elements, even with little change. Thus, an overall impression creates a halo effect. True leaders, on the other hand, recognize the uncertainty of leadership, culture, competencies and customers – and invest time into their continued analysis. Look for independent evidence to evaluate the parts.

Delusion of Absolute Performance. Success does not depend solely on an organization’s success on its own; rather, its success in comparison to competitors. Even if an organization continuously improves its processes by offering more for less; its competition can offer even more for even less. It will not, then, reap the benefits. Great leaders know following multi-step formulas does not guarantee success. Performance is relative and must be gauged against others.   

Delusion of Lasting Success. Organizations with long-term success are rare and thought to hold survival secrets. In actuality, most of these organizations have been regarded as great only after their reign. Because extreme performance is often followed by less extreme performance, research shows leaders of these organizations have unlocked only one secret – knowing how to hit a series of short-term successes.

Leaders who want to sustain greatness within an organization should understand three concepts: uncertainty, probability and outcome.

Uncertainty. While good leaders seek to control, great leaders bend and amend. Nothing is predictable – the business world, the organization’s people, customers – nothing. The best leaders understand how all three key pieces (Strategy, People and Customers) work together to increase profitability and success. Statistics support the need for leaders who continually drive the direction of the organization by continuously reviewing strategy.

Probability. With an understanding of the interdependency of the three pieces (Strategy, People and Customers), experienced leaders can improve the chances of organizational success. As marketing expert and author Jay Abraham said, “You are surrounded by simple, obvious solutions that can dramatically increase your income, power, influence and success. The problem is, you just don't see them.”

Outcome. Bad things happen to well-reasoned decision makers. Quick to link positive results to positive decisions, leaders often err by attributing poor results to poor decisions. Instead, focus on the entire process which includes roles, research, judgments, forecasts and risk tolerance.

Great leadership requires an open mind. While business formulas prove helpful, they can only serve as a guide. The goal, then, is to break down complex decisions into parts that make sense. Separate projected theories from hard-core realities, and, without any guarantees, allow clear thinking to prevail.

1 Rosenzweig, Phil. “The Halo Effect, and Other Managerial Delusions.” The McKinsey Quarterly. 2007 Number 1.  

















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